Alexander Ovechkin sits alone in second place on the NHL’s all-time goals list thanks to a pair of tallies in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets Friday night.
After four straight games without scoring, Ovechkin tied Gordie Howe with his 801st career goal with 1:38 in the first. Ovechkin took a drop pass from Dylan Strome and ripped a wrister past David Rittich, sending the DC crowd into a frenzy.
Washington continued to control play in the second, leading to a great chance for Ovechkin to pass Howe on a breakaway but a great backcheck by Kyle Capobianco bothered the great Russian sniper and Rittich did the rest to turn him aside.
But later in the second, Washington added to their lead. To the disappointment of the crowd, it wasn’t Ovechkin getting the goal but he got an assist as a loose puck found its way to Sonny Milano at the side of the net for his fifth of the season.
After two periods, Winnipeg had manufactured very little in terms of chances, managing just ten shots on goal through 40 minutes and whatever they were able to get on goal was well-handled by Charlie Lindgren.
The Caps made it 3-0 less than four minutes into the third when Nic Dowd finished off a nice give-and-go with Garnet Hathaway.
After falling behind by three, Winnipeg began pouring shots at Lindgren, and at the 9:59 mark Kevin Stenlund banged home his second of the season to get the Jets on the board.
They continued to push hard to try and get back into the game but as the clock continued to wind down, the thought in the minds of most observers was whether the Jets would pull the goalie and if Ovechkin would score into the empty net for his milestone goal.
Rittich was pulled with just under three minutes to go but Ovechkin stayed on the bench at first, drawing boos from the home crowd at one point.
When he finally came onto the ice, the crowd roared, hoping they would see history.
They almost did when Ovechkin sent the puck the length of the ice, but his shot grazed the outside of the post for an icing.
Moments later, the Capitals cleared the puck and Ovechkin appeared reluctant to shoot, as if he didn’t want his big moment to be into an empty net.
After passing the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the offensive end, he got the puck back near the blue line and relented, spinning and firing on net for his 802nd career goal.
It was also his 53rd career goal against the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise, his most against any team.
His celebration was muted as the Capitals emptied the bench to join him on the ice. There was a video message from Mark Howe to congratulate Ovechkin and once the final horn sounded, each member of the Winnipeg Jets lined up to shake Ovechkin’s hand.
“It’s a moment you’re not happy about, but at the same time you gotta appreciate and show him the respect he deserves,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey, whose 11-game point streak was snapped.
Thanks to their third period flurry, Winnipeg was only outshot 27-26 on the night but still fell on the wrong side of a 4-1 decision, their third loss in four games heading into the Christmas break.
Jets forward Cole Perfetti did not play Friday after hurting himself in Boston Thursday. Head coach Rick Bowness says the team is in need of a breather.
“To have three days off, this group needs it, there’s absolutely no question, physically and mentally,” Bowness said, following the team’s fifth game in the last seven nights.
They return to action at home Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild. Pregame show begins at 5 p.m. on 680 CJOB, with the puck dropping just after 7 p.m.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.